Concord’s ‘covert’ budget item website-based

Monitor staff
Published: 6/16/2019 6:14:02 PM

It looks like $5,100 will buy the city of Concord access to a website and services that can be used to collect data for law enforcement purposes.

A Monitor article mentioned a few weeks ago that Concord’s proposed budget for next year – a $66.5 million plan detailed in over 600 pages – has at least one line item that can’t be explained by city officials. This “covert communications equipment” is covered by a non-disclosure agreement through the city and its vendor. Even the line-by-line version of the budget doesn’t offer clues.

City Manager Tom Aspell has previously said the equipment isn’t body cameras or drones.

But a license and service agreement between the city and the unknown vendor gives a little more insight into what that equipment may be and how Concord’s relationship with the described “independent contractor” will work.

A redacted version of the agreement was provided to the Monitor last week by Concord police Chief Bradley Osgood through a right-to-know request. Osgood cited a law enforcement exemption in RSA 91-A:4 as the reason for the redactions as well as New Hampshire Supreme Court cases Murray v. State Police and Montenegro v. City of Dover.

“The contract has been redacted because it contains confidential information relative to surveillance technology,” Osgood wrote.

The contract, signed Oct. 28, 2017, by former Concord purchasing manager Douglas Ross, details how the vendor’s “Website, Applications, or Services” can be used by the city. There isn’t much description of what the company does aside from it offering “technical products and services to law enforcement agencies.”

The agreement has stringent confidentiality rules.

“Publicly disclosing the existence, description, functions, operations, capabilities, or use of the website … could compromise the effectiveness of the technology,” the agreement reads in capital letters.

The agreement also says disclosing the use of the vendor’s services could compromise “public security investigations” and endanger law enforcement lives.

Should Concord learn that anyone – district attorneys, judges or members of the public, for example – are planning to use the information the vendor collects, obtain it through open records laws, or if a judicial or administrative tribunal orders its release, the city is required to notify the vendor.

“Licensee will immediately inform (redacted) and cooperate in any effort by (redacted) to intervene and prevent such use or disclosure,” the agreement reads.

The vendor appears to have a public portion of its website through which it can collect business or personal contact information such as names, phone numbers and demographic detail.

It also appears law enforcement can collect data from the city when they use the service, according to the agreement. What kind of data they will collect is unknown.

The contract doesn’t detail how long the agreement will last.

The Concord City Council will be voting on the item, along with the rest of the $66.5 million operating budget, Monday at 7 p.m. A public comment portion of the meeting will precede the vote.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)



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